I’d been postponing writing this post because I was afraid I’d jinx myself! But I always love reading others’ stories of how they met their agent, so I thought I’d join in the fun and share my story 🙂
MY LIFE AS A POTATO is the first book I’ve ever written. (Well, not counting a couple sad attempts that never made it past the second chapter.) I was inspired to write this story while attending a volleyball game. I was sitting on the bleachers, watching the mascot cartwheel down on the court.
“What if there were a book about a mascot,” I said to my husband. “Like, with a really dorky costume, and he wanted to keep it a secret.”
“I heard they have potato mascots in Idaho,” my husband suggested.
The image cracked me up. I was sold. My 7th grade students were obsessed with potatoes. I HAD TO WRITE THIS BOOK.
I wrote feverishly and finished the first draft in less than three months, cackling loudly to myself as I drafted. I loved it! It was brilliant! It was gonna be a bestseller! I was ready to query!
Spoiler alert: It was awful and I was not ready to query, which I discovered dozens of agent rejections later.
Anyone who writes will not be surprised by this. Everyone’s awful when they first start writing fiction. ‘Tis the way that it is (that ’tis?). I had to learn a LOT about craft. I read some books, studied craft blogs, got several beta readers and critique partners. I deleted scenes, added scenes, rewrote my first chapter probably eleven times. I kept querying. I got a few bites, but no takers.
Enter: Pitch Wars.
My friend told me about this contest, and I thought “Why the heck not?” Shari Schwarz chose me as her mentee–lucky me! She really saw the heart of my story and helped me bring out Ben’s emotional arc. I revised the heck out of that thing and made wonderful CPs and friends in the Pitchwars community. Entering was the best decision for my writing career.
But I only got two requests during the agent round. No big deal. I was a bit disappointed, but it could’ve been worse. I kept revising. Kept querying. And querying. And querying.
Here’s the funny thing: I first had contact with my future agent, Amber Caraveo, through a totally different manuscript. I uploaded my contemporary fantasy work-in-progress onto the Writeoncon forums in hopes to get some feedback from fellow writers. I got a surprise message in my inbox–Amber enjoyed my sample and wanted to read more! Unfortunately, it wasn’t near done (though I hope to finish one day), so I queried her with POTATO instead. About six weeks later, she offered representation!
After nudging agents with my full, I ended up with four agents offering to represent me–wonderful, amazing agents. I couldn’t believe it! But something felt so distinctively RIGHT when I talked to Amber on the phone that I had to go with my gut. I was thrilled to become a member of team Skylark Lit. And she has been amazing–a superstar agent.
So that’s where I have to end my story for now. I’m hoping to be able to update soon with good news.
Thanks for reading! And if you’re in the query trenches, or writing your latest novel, know that you’re not alone. Keep persevering and remember why you’re telling your story. Writing is freaking hard! Luckily, the members of the writing community are some of the most generous and supportive people I know. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
There was a point after Pitch Wars where I commented on our Facebook group that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep writing. I was so burnt out with revisions and rejections and it just didn’t feel FUN anymore. I’ll never forget what someone responded. She basically said, “If you need to take a break, do. But often, writers find that we can’t NOT write. It’s a part of us. It’s what we love.”
That’s so true. I took a break. But stories kept calling to me. And I kept writing them.
We do it because we love it.